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By Daniel Surian | Broker in Boston, MA

Nine Books To Read Before Your Organization Dies

I realize that the holidays are traditionally a time for celebration and rejoicing. But once you’ve seen your year-end investment statement, it’s unlikely that you’ll be in the mood to sing ‘tis the season to be merry. Instead, you might want to turn your attention to what’s actually going on in the world. Here are some books that tell you what you need to know, rather than what you might like to hear.

They fall into three categories. First, those works that help us diagnose what’s gone wrong. Second, those books that tell firms how to get better. Finally, some medicine for the human spirit.

How The Grinch stole Christmas

  1. The Shift Index 2011

Just back from the lab, here is the report that explains in alarming detail how fast, and why, your organization is dying from hierarchical bureaucracy. Learning the full implications of the disease doesn’t make for happy holiday reading.  But the price is right—it’s free!—and it will provide you with the intellectual underpinnings for your organization’s needed New Year Resolutions. Get it here.


2. Pay Without Performance

Not an exciting read. but rather a systematic account of the scam that “shareholder capitalism” has come to represent. Under the guise of maximizing shareholder value, a surprising number of executives  have been skimming off much of the cream for, guess who? Themselves. Faced with increasing turnover in the C-suite, and deteriorating performance of the firm, executives have been grabbing cash they can find and making a run for it. When will the stock market wake up as to what’s going on? Read this book and you’ll stop wondering why your investments haven’t panned out. I discussed it here.

3. Retirement Heist:

Written six years after Pay Without Performance, it spells out in further detail how there is even more massive leakage in executive compensation (without performance) through executive pensions and retirement schemes. I discussed it here.





4. Masters of Nothing

Obviously there are lots of popular and well-written books on the 2008 financial meltdown from a US perspective like Michael Lewis’s The Big Short. What I like about Masters of Nothing is that it tells the story from a UK perspective. We see here not only why the global financial meltdown had nothing to do with myths about Barney Frank but also why the measures taken so far have not dealt with the root causes of the debacle. I discussed it here.


How We Can Fix Things

Enough of the bad news. Help yourself to a stiff drink and, with glass in hand, move on to how things can be fixed. (Yes, there is a cure for the seemingly terminal disease.) Books that I keep coming back to for guidance include:

5. Fixing the Game

Roger Martin’s HBR article, The Age of Customer Capitalism, is a brilliant depiction of the transition that is under way in management. In Fixing the Game, Martin has expanded and deepened his thinking Read it. Implement it. The very future of our society “hangs in the balance”. I discussed it here.



6.  The Ultimate Question 2.0

20th Century management got a lot of things wrong. But one thing they were right on: you can’t manage something if you can’t measure it. Sadly, managers in the 20th Century spent much of their time measuring the wrong things–they were busy bean counting. Fortunately, thanks to Fred Reichheld we now have a methodology for measuring what matters: customer delight. The Net Promoter Score is the crucial tool for 21st Century managers. I discuss it here in connection with Apple [AAPL] and here in connection with Philips Electronics [PHG].


7. Reorganize for Resilience

This book isn’t flashy or eye-catching.  But it defines the Rubicon that organizations will have to cross if they wish to survive in the 21st Century: a shift from an inside-out perspective (“You take what we make”) to an outside-in perspective (“We want to understand what your problems are and find ways to solve them.” Get it here.



8. The Lean Startup

A scientific approach to innovation, starting from premise that most changes make things worse for the customer. Don’t assume, says Eric Ries. Test! Your work isn’t done until the customer has verified that what you have done is better!




Some salves for the soul


9. Finite and Infinite Games

One of my all time favorite books. If you look at the world more broadly, you will see that the 20th Century was about playing soul-destroying “finite games”. What the 21st Century needs to be about is playing soul-uplifting “infinite games”. Get it here.





10. Steve Wolf’s Yoga Tapes

Not a book, but let’s face it: if you have made your way through, and digested, even some of the above, you’ll be feeling stress. Here is the antidote in the form of some yoga nidra tapes that will help you relax and sleep under even the most trying conditions. Great for anyone who travels a lot and spends time waiting in airports in frustrating queues. These practices help regain a sense of equanimity. Steve Wolf is the perfect guide. Get it here.

Need still more reading?

The books that I recommended for summer reading are still good.

Most literate: The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work by Alain de Botton: discussed here.

Quirkiest: Shop Class As Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value Of Work by Matthew Crawford, discussed here.

Most passionate: The New Capitalist Manifesto by Umair Haque (discussed here.

Big picture thinking: The Power Of Pull by John Hagel, John Seely Brown and Lang Davison, discussed here.

How to make it happen: Leadership in a Wiki World by Rod Collins (discussed here)

Most heartfelt: The Responsible Business by Carol Sanford, discussed here.

Best on Health: The Innovator’s Prescription by Clayton Christensen, Jason Hwang & Jerome Grossman: interview with co-author Jason Hwang here.

Best on education: A New Culture Of Education by Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown, discussed with the authors here

Best on why any of this matters: In Search Of Civilization by Kenneth Clark and In Search Of Civilization by John Armstrong, discussed here.

____________

Steve Denning

’s most recent book is: The Leader’s Guide to Radical Management (Jossey-Bass, 2010).

Follow Steve Denning on Twitter @stevedenning

Shared by: Daniel Surian, BizSold Business Brokers, Inc

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